Kevin Gorman: Steelers lost not because of pass-interference penalty but their reaction
Kameron Kelly watched the replay and knew what was coming next, that a new NFL rule was about to put the Pittsburgh Steelers in a precarious position.
On a prayer of a pass from Russell Wilson to Tyler Lockett on a second-and-20 from the Seattle 27, Kelly was defending in front when Steelers strong safety Terrell Edmunds broke up the play.
It was ruled an incomplete pass by officials on the field, but Seahawks coach Pete Carroll challenged the call. In slow motion, the video showed Edmunds making contact. As the minutes passed, the Steelers started to worry.
“I had a feeling,” Kelly said, “they were going to overturn it.”
And the NFL did, turning a third-and-20 into a first-and-10 at the Steelers 35 with the Seahawks leading by two points. There’s nothing quite like a 38-yard penalty to change the momentum of a game midway through the fourth quarter.
Three plays later, rookie receiver DK Metcalf beat Edmunds for a 28-yard touchdown pass, and the Seahawks scored a 28-26 victory Sunday afternoon in the home opener before 65,063 at Heinz Field.
“Regardless of whatever I think about the play, they made the call so I’ve just got to live with that,” Edmunds said. “I’ve got to live with the call that they made and then I’ve got to make the play down in the end zone.”
Instead, the Steelers were left to sizing up their 0-2 start.
Mike Tomlin was dumbfounded by the reversal.
The Steelers coach said he “disagreed” with the call and that he didn’t receive an explanation from officials.
But this is the most disturbing part from Tomlin: “I don’t believe any of us have an understanding of what the standards are once those things go to replay. I don’t know.”
NFL senior vice president of officiating Al Riveron told a pool reporter the league looked at “three or four TV angles that show us that there was clear and obvious visual evidence that receiver was significantly hindered by the defender in his attempt to make a catch.”
Sure, in slow motion.
That defensive pass interference can be challenged and reviewed is an overreaction to the Los Angeles Rams getting away with an obvious one against the New Orleans Saints in the NFC championship game. It’s going to be a never-ending story this season, and the Steelers got their first bitter taste of it.
“It’s just the new rule to the game,” said Steelers cornerback Joe Haden, who was called for a fourth-quarter pass-interference penalty at New Orleans last December. “We’ve got to adapt and figure out a way to not get that play. The ball was hanging in the air for a little bit so it just didn’t go in our favor. It sucks, but we’ll try to figure out a way to get our head around it and make a play.”
We go around in circles to get our heads around whether Edmunds committed blatant pass interference worthy of a reversal, but let’s be honest: The Steelers lost to the Seahawks not because of a questionable call but rather their reaction to it.
That’s a troubling sign for a defense that allowed 33 points to the New England Patriots and 28 to the Seahawks.
“We thought that was a big stop right there,” Edmunds said. “We thought they were about to kick it. They ended up overturning the call right there, and we had to keep on fighting.”
The Steelers had little fight left and no answers for Wilson, who completed 29 of 35 passes for 300 yards and three touchdowns for a 131.0 passer rating. The Steelers couldn’t get off the field on third downs, as the Seahawks converted 5 of 13 (38%).
And the Steelers couldn’t stop Wilson when it mattered most. Facing a third-and-16 from the Steelers 48, Wilson scrambled for a 15-yard gain, sliding just short of the first-down marker. At worst, Wilson put the Seahawks back in field-goal position at the two-minute warning.
Or so we thought.
Then the Seahawks went for it on fourth-and-1, behind a line that had committed a false start and two holding penalties in the fourth quarter alone. The Steelers needed a stop. Instead, Chris Carson — who had fumbled twice — ran for a first down. That was the game, as the Seahawks took a knee to run out the clock.
“We have to make plays,” Tomlin said. “We didn’t make enough of them and that is why we lost the game.”
That defensive pass interference call certainly didn’t help their cause, but it wasn’t why they lost. The Steelers need to gain an understanding of what the standards are once things go to replay: It’s not so much about the reversal as it is the reaction.
For now, it looks like they don’t know.
Kevin Gorman is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Kevin by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .